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Carnival Village to lead or not to lead

Notting Hill Carnival, that magnificent juggernaut that comes around every last Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday in August, is almost upon us. In a scenario that played out like an episode of fantasy drama Game of Thrones, the (Kensington & Chelsea) council became Kingmaker. On 26 February, they awarded their 2018 Notting Hill Carnival funding to Carnival Village Trust; what happens going forward is anyone’s guess.

We needed a couple questions answered so decided to talk to Matthew Phillip, from Carnival Village.

In February, Carnival Village was awarded the contract by RBKC to run Notting Hill Carnival. How have things gone so far?
We have really had to hit the ground running. But not without ‘listening and looking’. So listening to the local community, the carnival arenas and relevant bodies. And looking at ways for us all to work together to produce yet another successful NHC; Europe’s largest street event. Perhaps what the wider public don’t know is that this is still very much a grassroots event, albeit on a world stage. It’s quite unique in that sense. And we have been busy working with our collaborators to create a solid team to develop strategies to achieve all that is set out in our bid – which you can find on our website www.carnivalvillage.org.uk

What does Carnival Village believe it can bring to the successful running of Carnival – that has not been achieved in its history thus far?
Carnival is always a huge success – and each year it gets bigger and bigger. And, of course, with that success comes new challenges. We plan to harness what has gone before and to build on that success by identifying those new challenges and putting strategies in place to tackle them. One of our main priorities is to reinvigorate Children’s Day; we have 10 new children’s bands this year.

There has been a fervour of social media activity since the council’s decision was made. Has meant that you’ve had to change your plans or approach in any way? 
No, our approach has always been to listen to the Carnival and wider community; we’re a community organisation.

You’ve set up a new company specifically to run Carnival. What is it called, how is it structured and who are the company officials?
It’s called Notting Hill Carnival Ltd. We have a main board, which is made up on CVT Trustees and appointed Trustees. As I’m sure you’re aware we advertised for board members and members of the Advisory Council, which reflects all the Arts Disciplines and local community; we have also advertised for an administration assistant. We had a fantastic response to all of these areas.

Carnival Village asked mas bands to register with them directly. Can you tell us why you did that as opposed to going through the established representative body (CAMF), and whether you think this could have potential to negatively impact the mas bands because it removes their group representation?
It has always been the case that the organisers of Notting Hill Carnival register bands directly, in consultation with the arenas. As the organisers of Notting Hill Carnival 2018, we feel it is important to engage directly with all of the performance units; it’s the opportunity for everyone to have their voice heard. We have invited all of the Arts Disciplines to sit on our Advisory Council, we have yet to hear back from the board executives themselves, although we have had representation from their members.

What is the vision of Carnival Village Trust for Notting Hill Carnival, looking forward?
Our vision is for a successful, safe and spectacular Carnival. The priority is that NHC’s up to one million attendees have the time of their lives. We are committed to working with stakeholders to ensure carnival runs like a finely tuned machine. Whilst carnival is steeped in tradition, NHC’s organisers have always been open to experimenting with new and novel ideas. We will be doing the same. That said… One element we would like to revisit is the tradition of ‘Children’s Day’. We strongly feel that the Sunday should be returned to our children, and we are taking steps to create a better platform with a view to increasing children’s participation. It’s important that the tradition of mas is passed down to our young ones. They are the future of carnival.

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